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Iron-ore major Fortescue Metals’ green energy arm, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), will become the largest supplier of green hydrogen to the UK after striking a deal with construction giant J C Bamford Excavators (JCB) and Ryze Hydrogen.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed prior to the climate conference, COP26, JCB and Ryze will purchase 10% of FFI’s global green hydrogen production, which is anticipated to grow to 15-million tonnes of green hydrogen a year by 2030, accelerating to 50-million tonnes a year in the decade thereafter.

Under the partnership, FFI will lead the green hydrogen production and logistics to the UK market, and JCB and Ryze will manage green hydrogen distribution and development of customer demand in the UK.

FFI chairperson Dr Andrew Forrest said this landmark, first of its kind partnership will help the UK to achieve net zero, particularly in the hard to electrify sectors.

“Our agreement signals the first major shift in the global commercial landscape from fossil fuels towards the real, practical, implementable solution that is green hydrogen. We are delighted to announce this groundbreaking initiative at the critical climate forum of COP26.

“The reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions associated with replacing fossil fuel with only two-million tonnes of green hydrogen is the equivalent of taking over eight-million cars off the road, almost a quarter of the UK’s entire fleet,” Forrest said.

The agreement has been strongly backed by JCB, which called it “a major advance.”

“This is an important step towards getting green hydrogen to the customer. It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines. This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution,” JCB chairman Lord Jo Bamford said.

“This is a monumental deal, not just for us but for the UK as a whole. We have chosen to partner with the global leaders in green hydrogen and it is fabulous that two countries, the UK and Australia, can come together to create a brighter future.

“We are walking the walk on green hydrogen and now we want the government to show its commitment to the sector by investing in buses, trains, trucks, ships, aircraft and the entire green hydrogen supply chain.

“At best, any hydrogen made from fossil fuel is being promoted as a transition fuel, but the production of it causes more pollution than it saves. This agreement demonstrates that green hydrogen does not need to be ‘transitioned’ via fossil fuel hydrogen. Production of it can commence at once, to meet the needs of all mobility. I have asked Andrew to deliver to me immediately that he has the capacity, and he has agreed,” Bamford said.

An extended offtake agreement will also be evaluated to provide green hydrogen to the European market, and the parties have agreed to evaluate collaboration opportunities to accelerate green hydrogen demand and establish green hydrogen and green industry manufacturing centres.

FFI CEO Julie Shuttleworth said the deal reinforced the inexorable march of green hydrogen as the fuel of the future.

“Green hydrogen is critical for the planet and good for business, a powerful fuel and ingredient in the manufacturing of a large range of industrial, difficult-to-decarbonise products. It will be fundamental in enabling the decarbonization of heavy industry globally,” she said.